Funerals set for victims in Louisiana movie theater shooting

Story highlights

Funerals held for two women killed in movie theater shooting

Shooter's body has yet to be claimed, officials say

CNN —  

Friends, family and even complete strangers gathered Monday for the funerals of two women killed in last week’s movie theater shooting in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Mayci Breaux, 21, and Jillian Johnson, 33, died Thursday after gunman John Russell Houser stood up in a movie theater and began methodically emptying the magazine of his .40-caliber handgun into the crowd, according to police.

Mayci Breaux, left, and Jillian Johnson were killed last week in the Lafayette movie theater shootings.

He then killed himself after arriving police apparently blocked his escape, investigators said.

“The positive, if there’s such a thing in this sort of tragedy, is that the victims will have brought a community and communities together as one,” Lafayette Mayor Joey Durel told CNN on Monday.

He called it their one last contribution on Earth.

Hundreds were expected to attend the services.

In the meantime, the Lafayette Parish Coroner’s Office said Houser’s body had yet to be claimed.

While the funerals drove home the finality of the loss to the south Louisiana community from which the women hailed, the investigation into Houser’s actions will stretch on.

Written reminder

On Sunday, CBS News published video of Houser leaving the motel where he had been staying since arriving in Lafayette in early July after borrowing $5,000 from his mother.

In the video, he can be seen walking on a sidewalk at the hotel and talking with a clerk at the front desk. The footage also shows what investigators say is Houser’s car pulling out of the parking lot at 6:41 p.m. Thursday.

Investigators searching Houser’s belongings found that he’d written down notes to be at the Grand 16 Theatre in time for the 7:15 p.m. showing of the comedy “Trainwreck.”

“This man was certainly of a sound mind because you know what, he wrote it down,” Louisiana State Police Col. Michael Edmonson said. He had also swapped the license plates on his car, police said.

Eleven victims

Authorities still don’t know why he chose Lafayette.

Police believe he’d visited other theaters before the shooting, including in Lake Charles, Lafayette and Baton Rouge – possibly in disguise, Edmonson said.

Houser opened fire at 7:27 p.m., according to authorities.

He fired 10 shots, then left the theater through a side door. He headed toward his 1995 Lincoln but saw a police cruiser arrive in the parking lot and turned back, police said.

He reloaded his handgun, re-entered the theater and fired three more rounds, according to authorities. Then he fatally shot himself in the head.

He struck 11 people, according to police.

Breaux died at the scene. She was a student at Louisiana State University-Eunice and worked at the Coco Eros boutique.

Johnson died at the hospital. The Lafayette native operated the Red Arrow gift and toy shop in the city, and she played ukulele and guitar in a band called the Figs.

Nine others were wounded, including Breaux’s boyfriend of about three years, Matthew Rodriguez. He was shot in the neck and armpit, according to his cousin.

Legal issues

Houser had a history of legal and mental problems dating back at least seven years. In 2008, his wife, their daughter and her fiancé, and his parents took out a restraining order against him in Georgia after he had made threatening comments about his daughter’s impending marriage.

His wife said in the application that she was so fearful of Houser, she’d taken all guns and other weapons out of their home.

A lawyer for the family, in a Superior Court filing, incorrectly referenced an involuntary commitment order for Houser.

A Carroll County probate judge had issued an “order to apprehend,” which required a mental health evaluation of Houser. Court records reviewed by CNN do not show what the result of that evaluation was.

Doctors who evaluate a person’s mental health typically have three options: Release the person, ask the patient to be voluntarily treated, or recommend a court involuntarily commit the person.

There was no order for involuntary commitment issued, Muscogee County Probate Judge Marc E. D’Antonio said.

D’Antonio, who in 2008 was the county clerk of Muscogee County, where West Central Regional Hospital is located, told CNN: “Had there been adjudication for the need for involuntary treatment, it would have been reported to the GBI (Georgia Bureau of Investigation),” he said.

Carroll County Probate Court Judge Betty Cason, who issued the “order to apprehend,” said she feels for the victims of the theater attack.

“In those parents’ hearts and minds, they think I could have prevented them from being killed,” she said.

Cason defended the order to apprehend, saying she “did what she was supposed to do and the system didn’t fail” because there is such a fine line in whether a judge should take away a person’s civil rights.

Family visit after long absence

Houser left behind an extensive trove of posts to online political forums, which authorities are poring over, authorities said.

In what appear to be some of the postings reviewed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the posts center on far-right, anti-government ideas.

The SPLC website posting on Houser included chilling words he supposedly wrote on a forum about a Greek neo-Nazi party: “I do not want to discourage the last hope for the best, but you must realize the power of the lone wolf, is the power that come forth in ALL situations.”

CNN could not independently confirm the posts were Houser’s.

Recently, he “showed up out of the blue” seeking money from his family after a 10-year absence, Houser’s brother, Rem Houser of Hamilton, Georgia, told CNN.

He said his brother needed the money to “continue moving on, living and surviving,” he said.

“So, we gave him some and that was the last we heard of him,” Rem Houser said.

Rick Perry: Let us take our guns to the movies

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said John Russell Houser had been involuntarily committed to a hospital, according to court documents. Instead, in 2008, a Carroll County, Georgia, judge issued an order to apprehend, which allows authorities to take a person to a facility for a mental evaluation. It is unclear what happened with Houser, but a judge in a county where he would have been evaluated told CNN that there was never an “involuntary commitment” issued.